Like many Southeast Texans, a Harris County woman boarded a bus for a trip to one of the casinos just across the state line in Louisiana.
But when 76-year-old Virginia Mapes found herself on the wrong bus, she claims the bus driver ejected her from the bus and left her in the parking lot of a grocery store in Beaumont where she later fell and sustained injuries.
Mapes filed a personal injury against Greatland Coach on Nov. 25 in Jefferson County District Court.
Her attorney, Brian White of Houston, contacted the Southeast Texas Record on Dec. 3 about the case, and said the entire event was "unbelievable."
Mapes, who used a cane to walk, had originally boarded a Greatland Coach bus in Baytown on Feb. 7, the suit states.
She claims she planned to travel to Coushatta Casino Resort in Kinder, La., but learned while riding the bus that it was traveling to the Isle of Capri Casino in Lake Charles, La.
"She told me if there was a sign indicating where the bus was going when she boarded, she never saw it," White said. "And she was frustrated about that."
After hearing Mapes talk with a co-passenger, the bus driver forced Mapes to get off the bus in a Market Basket parking lot on N. 11th Street in Beaumont, where he told Mapes another bus would arrive to take her to Coushatta, according to the complaint.
Despite Mapes's repeated requests to stay on the bus, the driver still "dropped her off alone, in an unfamiliar parking lot, without a cell phone and without any help," the suit states. "Plaintiff was dropped off to fend for herself in that parking lot despite the fact that it was apparent to a reasonable ordinary person that she had difficulty walking, was frightened and wished not to exit the bus."
"This was an accident just waiting to happen," White said.
Mapes waited at a hotel next to the grocery store for a while, and after a bus did not come, she walked to Market Basket, where she waited for the bus, she claims.
When she saw a group of people in the parking lot that she incorrectly assumed were waiting for a bus, Mapes began to walk toward them, according to the complaint.
"Unfortunately, by this time, Plaintiff was not only emotionally spent, but she was also physically spent," the suit states. "Plaintiff fell in the parking lot, landing on her face and body causing severe personal injuries and damages."
Because of the fall, Mapes sustained serious injuries to her neck, jaw, teeth and body, she claims.
Greatland Coach was negligent because it failed to exercise reasonable care to avoid a risk of injury, breached its duty to avoid increasing danger from a condition that has been partially created by its conduct and breached its duty to use ordinary care in ascertaining the accuracy of information given to Mapes, according to the complaint.
White said he has spoken to counsel for the bus line.
"The bus company is saying she was the one who told the bus driver to let her get off the bus," White said.
He said attempts were made to reach an agreement with the bus company before taking legal action, but after the company learned Mapes was seeking damages of at least "six figures," the negotiations ended and White filed the lawsuit.
Mapes is seeking a judgment in an amount to be determined by a jury, plus costs, prejudgment and post-judgment interest and other relief to which she may be entitled.
The case has been assigned to Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court.
Case No. D182-766
Marilyn Tennissen contributed to this story